Vive la révolution

The way club golf is organised needs a revolution

I’ve been doing a spot of very quick (not particularly scientific) research this month on the structure of golf clubs – especially how men and women participate in the sport together – and I’m sure you’ll all be surprised to hear the results are that most clubs have old-fashioned ideas and rules going back to when the world was in black and white.

In an age of equality for males and females, including on the golf course, why is it that men and women (generally) are not allowed to compete alongside one another?

Surely the handicap and tee systems make this easier than in just about any other sport, yet many golf clubs seem to be clinging to the idea that men and women should not mix when playing competitively.

The idea that men play on a Saturday and women have a midweek day remains prevalent, but the way people work and organise their lives doesn’t fit into that. People work weekends, kids play sports or go to clubs on weeknights, life gets in the way of golf – so clubs need to be as flexible as possible to get people playing and enjoying the game.

At the one golf club I found which runs singles competitions open to men and women, in same sex groups or mixed, the concept is an important part of membership to many of the female members. They are able to play when they want to – after work with a colleague or friend, male or female, on a Saturday morning or on a Tuesday afternoon. The competitions share the same names, with a male and female winner, and everyone gets on with it without any fuss.

At its core, club golf is supposed to be enjoyable. If you’re a man who wants to play golf with your wife or a female friend on a Saturday, why should the way things have always been done stand in your way? Why should a woman who works five days a week be told she cannot play competitively on a Saturday when the course has a competition running on it anyway? Or if a man gets out of the office sharp on a Tuesday, why shouldn’t he be able to roll up to the tee, join a two-ball and play a competitive round?

Those who want to play in all-male or all-female groups can of course continue to do so, so surely there is no harm in getting more people out onto the golf course.

Golf’s image among non-golfers is one of rules and traditions which make little sense when you haven’t been part of them. But our game allows players of all abilities, ages and genders to play alongside one another using the handicap system and different sets of tees – let’s start thinking outside of what we know, be a little more flexible and get more people playing more golf in a way that suits them rather than what suits old-fashioned ideas.